Percent for Art Scheme

St. Dymphna’s School

St. Nicolas’ School




We Can Fly is a participatory art project, inviting children of St. Dymphna’s and St. Nicolas’ Schools (in Ballina, Co. Mayo) to play with and explore interactive video projections by Anne Cleary and Denis Connolly. The sessions took place in February and March 2010 under the guidance of the choreographer Cindy Cummings. A series of photographs from the sessions will be mounted permanently in the two schools.

I grew up in Crossmolina in the 1970’s, under the shadow of Nephin Mountain My father worked in the now defunct Bellacorick Power Station at the time, and trips to the neighbouring metropolis of Ballina were major events in my life between the ages of four and fourteen. We would often visit friends, a blow-in family like ourselves, who lived in a modern cubic house set in the sloping hillside that overlooks the Moy River. The house had a huge plate glass window to the front, and my sharpest memory of Ballina is that view of the river, low in the Summer, and wide, and the air above the water filled with wheeling, screeching gulls, swooping to fish, then coasting on the wind as they gulped the poor wriggling creatures plucked from the tide. 

As a child with learning difficulties myself I looked forward to these trips, as they were often coupled with a drawing class that I attended with one of the boys from the family. I was diagnosed as mildly dyslexic when I was six, and though there were no classes for children with special learning needs in Mayo then, my parents did everything in their power to help me overcome this problem and build my confidence; and so, as well as having extra classes at home to learn to read and write, they drove me all over the county to attend art classes, learn to play the guitar, do pottery, and make jewellery. By the time I was ten I could read as well as any child of my age, and though my handwriting remained virtually illegible, and still is, this minor difficulty did not prove significant as the years went by. 

In a manner of speaking, overcoming my learning difficulties allowed me to spread my wings and fly: and the creative activities that I was encouraged to do as a child contributed greatly to building confidence and maintaining a sense of self esteem in a school system where any child who didn’t manage to keep up was treated differently. 

Based on my own experiences I have made working with children, and communities in general, a priority in our work, and I have realised over the years that our best work is in fact produced when we work with other people. 

The theme of flight for this project is a multifaceted one; Ballina, in my minds eye will always be those birds’ wings outstretched over the Moy, and as a metaphor flight is used so frequently to represent human endeavour. The human figure with outstretched arms appears and reappears throughout art history, and as a choreographic theme flight is simple and adaptable to the abilities of all children. Just a wave of the arms is enough to symbolise flight, and that simple gesture, transformed and immortalised throughout the building, will become a symbol for the children’s own desire, and their right, to fly.

Anne Cleary, 2010


Cindy Cummings